Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Rebuilding an old Forespar E-Z Furl system.

We love our main furling.  No, we don't have battens or any roach on the main because of it but it is worth it in our situation as live aboard cruisers for the ease of reefing/furling .  That said, as with any other system on a sailboat, it can break and does require some maintenance.

The upper swivel that failed is above the worm drive.  All of the lower parts must be removed in order to get the upper swivel removed from the roller extrusion.

Recently, just as we got the main completely furled out, the sound of torlon bearings bouncing off of our solar panels rang out in our ears and we realized that the top swivel on our main furler had come apart.  The top swivel is comprised of two basic units, an inner and outer that are held together with an overlapping, spiral retaining ring.  The ring had failed and the two pieces came apart spilling the 52 torlon bearings that should reside in the swivel on the upper and lower internal, overlapping surfaces.  The outer unit is connected to the halyard and the inner unit is connected the the head of the sail.  When they fail the main falls down the rolling extrustion and soon you have a main sail covering your deck.

 This is the top swivel with the inner piece separated from the outer.

 A view of the inner piece of the swivel.

In order to remove the top swivel from the rolling extrusion you must remove the boom, the lower swivel, worm drive and a variety of other parts in order to slide the upper swivel off of the bottom of the unit in order to work on it.  After a couple of hours that was finished and I had the upper swivel, both pieces, in my hand. After inspection I realized that they two parts are held together by a spiral retaining clip that was totally worn out and had failed.  What to do?  We were near Manzanillo Mexico and I knew that there was no chance to get the torlon bearings and that specialized ring anywhere here in Mexico.  After some research I found that the ring is made by Smalley somewhere in the midwest.

 Boom removed and tools strewn across the deck.

 The culprit!

 Both pieces of the upper swivel on the left and the lower swivel to the right.

 Notice the gap on the split ring...totally shot!

 Both pieces together but no new parts yet.

A view of the retainer ring NOT holding the two parts together.

New parts in hand and starting the rebuilding process.

Two things came together to get us the parts we needed...AMAZING customer service by Forespar and fellow cruisers that were going to the USA to renew their visas and would be returning in just a few days.  I wound up getting a hold of one of the original designers of the E-Z Furl system and he emailed me all the technical drawings of  the unit.  By the way, that unit has not been in production for over 15 years!  Not only did he have the rings and bearings in stock he sent them Priorty Mail to an address where my cruiser buddies were going to be, shipped them out that very same day.  When I offered my credit card to pay for the parts and shipping, he refused, saying he just wanted to get us up and running.  In the package he sent me the clip I needed, plus a spare, as well as two clips for the lower unit in case I had to rebuild that sometime in the future, AND all of the torlon ball bearings.

The package arrived at our friend's home in 2 days and a day later they flew into Manzanillo Mexico and I had the parts in my hand in Barra de Navidad.  About 4 days total...delivered to Mexico at zero cost!  What?!!!  I can't say enough about the customer service from Forespar and also huge praise to our family of cruisers here in Mexico that pitch in!  As payback Marne is bringing down an oil pump for another cruiser that is leaving soon for the South Pacific and couldn't leave with out it.  They ordered it next day air to Oregon and the part will be in their hands tomorrow afternoon when Marne returns to the boat.  We call it cruiser mail and it usually turns out to be the best package delivery system on the planet!

 The unit reinstalled on the mast.

 A clean and tightly furled main sail.

After reassembly of the upper swivel and a couple hours to put everything all back together, our main rolled in like a new unit!  If, by chance, you have a similar unit and want to service or rebuild it you should contact me for some helpful hints that might save you several hours of blundering.  I am happy to share my experience with the unit to save you the blunders I had to endure.  As for now we are happily sailing the warm waters of Mexico with a smooth furling main system.

Until next time,

Bret and Marne
SV Liahona


  1. Hi,
    Am fighting with an ancient E-Z add on system similar to yours. Had to twist sail hook in lower unit to replace sheared ALUMINUM tapered Phillips head machine screws...which I could not find within 50 miles. Gave up, used stainless coated with 100% silicone caulk to suppress galvanic issues. Not happy: Concerned SS will not shear under excessive loading. But main problem now is twisting sail hook back into proper position. I can't budge it and cannot tell how it is held in place. Copies of the tech drawings you received from your E-Z contact would be a great help. If you'd email them to me at jamesjroberts@iCloud.com (and how I can contact the chap at E-Z), I'd be very VERY grateful! I enjoy your blog and hope to cross paths with you someday during your/our wanderings. Until then, safe journeys! -- Jim & Naomi Roberts, SV Preamble

  2. Hello Bret, we are having trouble with our EZFurl, can you give us contact information for the EZFurl support person that gave you the help? We are having trouble with the lower worm drive unit and do not have a diagram of this lower assembly. The initial problem is that the cap screw that screws up from from the bottom of the unit and that keeps the worm drive centered unscrews from the centering pin that holds the lower end of the worm drive. That is probably unclear but the best that I can do in describing the situation without providing a diagram.
    Anyway, if you can help us contact a support person to help us solve the problem, we would really appreciate it! Thanks so much. -Ken

  3. hello Bret,
    This is the first time ever for me to see a mainsail furler that looks like mine! I have trouble to replace the halyard that is atached to the swivel; can't get the swivel low enough in the profile so that I can reach the halyard. I would be much obliged when you could send me the technical drawings of the furler or get me into contact with somebody that has them.
    kind regards,
    Arnold van Vuuren
    the Netherlands